My Account

Rare Books

Undergraduates, have your say! Complete a 10-minute survey and enter to win Hospitality gift cards.
Today's Hours: 8am - 10pm - All service hours

The library's Archival & Special Collections is home to more than twenty-five thousand rare books that range from the sixteenth to the twentieth century.

What makes a book rare in the McLaughlin Library?

Many older books are notable for their significance in terms of:

  • Subject matter
  • Their scarcity
  • The imprint or date of publication (age)
  • Perhaps their physical characteristics, condition or binding, or
  • Ownership or association (a book or collection may have been signed or annotated by a particular author or collected by a notable person in a subject field)

Of course, these factors are subjective and the designation as "rare" sometimes is bestowed in terms of market value!

Although age is not necessarily a determining factor, most of our rare books were printed before 1850, with Canadian imprints usually extended to 1900. There are always exceptions, but these are limited in number. One collection, on John Galt, is related to the foundation of Guelph in 1827 and contains a number of twentieth century items.

Over the years, Guelph has developed particular areas of interest.

There are many Scottish history books and collections on:

Notable works on agricultural history and veterinary medicine are, of course, focal points. The holdings on apiculture consist of more than 800 rare items and we have more than three hundred books related to the history of veterinary medicine as well as significant holdings in botany, horticulture, gardening, and landscape architecture before 1900. The general history of agriculture equipment and everyday rural living, especially in Canada, is equally well represented.

A list of Archival & Special Collections Resources
Burton Noble Gates CollectionMaterials related to the study of apiculture.Pre-1930
Disruption RecordsIncludes addresses, letters, declarations, notices, circulars, reports, and statements.1840-1873
John Galt CollectionScottish author and first Superintendent (1826-1829) of the Canada Company.1785-2013
Scottish Chapbook CollectionChapbooks in Scotland were usually small pamphlet-like books of clever remarks, folklore, stories, and songs normally costing only a few pence.
Una Abrahamson CollectionCollection of cookery books and social histories ranging from the 17th to 20th centuries.1600-2000
The library is committed to ensuring that members of our user community with disabilities have equal access to our services and resources and that their dignity and independence is always respected. If you encounter a barrier and/or need an alternate format, please fill out our Library Print and Multimedia Alternate-Format Request Form. Contact us if you’d like to provide feedback: